Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Set in 12th century England, The Winter Hare brings to life the world of young Will Belet who, at age 11, is sent to serve as a page in the household of the Earl of Oxford, a relative of his mother. The Earl has a secret agenda which puts young Will's life in jeopardy during the tumultuous battle for the throne between Empress Matilda and the usurper, King Stephen and his barons. During this action-packed novel, Will learns to become a successful page and helps Empress Matilda escape from a life-threatening situation. A courageous young man, Will learns that all leaders are not as perfect as people hope. Goodman does an excellent job of bringing the medieval world of 12th century England alive for young readers and creates an interesting young hero in Will.
VOYA - Maura Bresnahan
Readers who enjoy historical fiction will find The Winter Hare a wonderful introduction to twelfth century England. Goodman delivers a richly detailed account of life during the tumultuous reigh of King Stephen, as seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Will Belet. For as long as he can remember, Will, nicknamed Little Rabbit because of his small stature, has dreamed of becoming a knight. As the story opens, Will is preparing to depart his father's stronghold and begin service at his uncle's castle. Those looking for adventure and intrigue will not be disappointed as from the earliest chapters Will and the men he serves become embroiled in bloody skirmishes with their adversaries. The well-researched plot relies on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle a twelfth century monastic document. Set in the early years of King Stephen's reign, shortly after he usurped control from his cousin, the rightful Queen Matilida, The Winter Hare gives readers a chance to learn more about a period often overshadowed in history textbooks. Will's courage and strong character earn him admiration and respect when he plays an important role in the escape of Matilda from the crown's control. As the novel ends, Will is affectionately called Sir Rabbit and encouraged to adopt the winter hare as the symbol on his knight's shield. He decides to join Matilda's son, Henry II, in France and continue training as a knight in preparation for the overthrow of King Stephen. In the tradition of Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy (Clarion, 1994/VOYA, June 1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1955/VOYA, August 1995), and Temple's The Ramsay Scallop (Orchard, 1994/VOYA, April 1994), Goodman takes readers on a terrific trip backwards in time. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Meticulously crafted, this 12th- century coming-of-age story is dense with English history. A long bout with the pox has made 12-year-old Will Belet small for his age and inspired his nickname, Rabbit. As he is released from his mother's protective embrace, he is brimming with optimism that becoming a page to his uncle, Earl Aubrey, will inevitably lead to knighthood. He is unprepared, however, for the carnage of the battlefield or the complex social and political forces shaping his nation's destiny as well as his own. Caught in the middle of a bitter civil war plus a feud between his father and uncle, Will confronts physical hardships and life-threatening danger in a world where learning whom one can trust may be the most important lesson of all. In the book's most suspenseful sequence, Will plays a key role in Empress Matilda's daring escape from Oxford Castle as it is besieged by her enemies. The novel is well plotted, paced, and vividly drawn, but fails to make an emotional connection. Supporting characters are clearly delineated but not fully developed, and Will is empathetic but not very interesting. The historical thoroughness and accuracy will weigh heavily on an audience unfamiliar with the socio-political structure of medieval Europe. Preface, epilogue, and author's note offer background information, but there is no glossary. Good for school assignments, but unlikely to fly off the shelf on its own.-Margaret Cole, Oceanside Library, NY
This first novel by Goodman (Bernard's Bath, 1996, etc.), set in 1140, chronicles the desire of Will, 12, to emulate King Arthur and to become a great knight during a time of civil war in England.
Despite Will's small stature, worthy people believe in him, among them his father, Sir John, and Lady Elaine, the heart and soul of Oxford Castle, where he trains as a page. Ranulf d'Artois seems to be his nemesis as Will struggles to improve his skills in the face of a barrage of teasing that includes his hated nickname, "little rabbit." But the fast-moving novel has surprises in store when evil plotting is revealed to Will and he finds that d'Artois is a stern protector. As Will matures, his childhood dreams start to become real. Will is a fully realized character, whose concerns have a contemporary feel. Blood, battles, sorrows, and joys of the era are authentically portrayed. Only determined readers will have a chance at comprehending the preface, which lists warring factions and royal lineage, but thereafter they will find a riveting plot that culminates in an escape scene worthy of translation to film. There is no glossary for the obscure terms, but there are handsome black-and-white chapter decorations and a map to complete this expressive work.
From the Publisher
"This first novel by Goodman, set in 1140, chronicles the desire of Will, twelve, to emulate King Arthur and to become a great knight during a time of civil war in England. . . . Will is a fully realized character, whose concerns have a contemporary feel. . . . A riveting plot that culminates in an escape scene worthy of translation to film." Kirkus Reviews